I am so happy to present this amazing guest post by superb writer, journal instructor, and blogger, Joanna Tebbs Young on the value of journaling with children. If you weren’t convinced before you will be now!! Also, be sure to check out tomorrow’s Wonder Wednesday post because Joanna has provided us with a great journaling activity that compliments her post!
“The journal is a place to nurture what is best within the self, and I think children understand that.” — Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children
At a writing retreat a few years ago, we were asked to find a spot outside that called to us. I lay down in the cool green of soft grass and wrote a few lines to the small, upturned faces of yellow flowers peeking from behind a rock. They were both my meditation and my muse. I felt cradled and loved by the earth, calmed and happy. I sat firmly in that moment while recording it for another.
Diarist, Anais Nin once wrote, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” If a child first experiences the wonders of nature and then expresses the emotions evokes by it through creative expression, s/he has indeed enjoyed it and benefitted from it twice. By encouraging them to interact with nature through writing, children can connect to nature on level beyond the sensual.
Journaling is an extremely flexible and beneficial method for children to explore their creativity, express their emotions, and discover their own inner world – as well as connect on a deeper level with the world outside.
Janell Moon in The Wise Earth Speaks to Your Spirit, writes, “I discovered that imagination, writing, and nature led me to a place where I belonged… I filled notebooks that explored how I was part of the whole earth, nature, and all living things.”
There are many more reasons why it is helpful for children – even pre-writers – to keep a journal, nature-based or otherwise. Whether it is pages of healthy scribbling, a self-portrait in thick crayon, a retelling of an experience, or a complex fantasy story featuring themselves in the lead role, any self-expression has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. For example, the very act of writing down emotions has been found to promote healing, regulate emotional extremes, and reduce anxiety (resulting in less illness and missed days of school). Pair this with the benefits of being in nature and you have a recipe for a happier child.
- Privacy of journal is Safe and Relaxing (freedom from judgment or failure) and encourages Honesty (with self), Spontaneity and innate Creativity and Imagination.
- Writing and drawing practice (verbal and nonverbal expression) encourages and enhances Communication skills, Brainstorming skills, and develops and integrate both Right and Left Brain functioning.
- Encouragement of Emotional Release allows for acceptance of feelings, Self-Understanding, Self-Confidence and Self-Discovery (of own beliefs, desires, and talents).
Here are just a few journaling exercises that work well when writing a nature journal (based on techniques found in Kathleen Adams’ Journal to the Self):
- Character Sketch: Describing a daisy, a rock, a red pepper, etc. using all the senses to create luscious detail
- Snapshot: Describing a moment in time as if you were painting a picture with your words, again using all the senses to help others “see” it
- AlphaPoem: Use each letter in the name of a flower, tree, vegetable, place in nature, etc. as the first letter of a line of poetry.
- Nature poem: Wax lyrical about what you see in the soil, in the trees, over the hills, in the clouds, etc.
So, next time you’re outside with the kids, take some paper and writing/drawing utensils. Let them connect to the earth and connect to themselves through the wonder of words. (And, of course, adding drawings makes it even better!)
Seeds to Sprout:
BIO: Joanna Tebbs Young is a certified Instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy and a candidate for a MA in Transformative Language Arts from Goddard College. She is co-founder of Allen House Coaching Collaborative & Writers’ Room in Rutland, Vermont where she runs her practice, “Re-INK Your Life!” Workshops & Training. She blogs at http://wisdomwithinink.com and writes the “Circles of Community” column at http://rutlandreader.com.
Yep, those are Joanna’s super cute children, and nope, that scenario wasn’t staged! You never know what unexpected discovery will prompt children to explore and document their world!
Wings, Worms, and Wonder has an entire subchapter on nature journaling with children and a pattern for creating your own nature journal. With the “senseofwonder2013” sale, now through August 21, get a discount when you enter senseofwonder2013 into the coupon code! Buy a copy now before the sale and the summer gets away from you and do this activity in your own homemade nature journal!